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Dating as a Single Parent: 52 Must-Knows to Date a Single Mom or Dad

If you’re thinking about dating a single parent, there are a lot of things you need to know before making a short or long-term commitment to this person.

dating a single parent mom or dad

Love doesn’t always work out the first, second, or even the third time around. And when a relationship ends, sometimes kids get left behind. So, you need to understand that when you date a single parent.

Now, many single parents choose to pore over their child’s welfare 24/7 and are therefore out of the dating market.

But there are still some single parents who crave companionship and romance.

The best ways to start a great relationship with a single parent

If you find yourself in a mutual attraction with a single parent, it’s way different from dating someone who doesn’t have kids.

There’s a whole paradigm shift there that you have to be aware of.

So, to help you out, here’s the basic guide to things you should be able to do to have a successful relationship with a single parent. [Read: Things happy couples talk about to feel closer in love]

1. Are you ready? 

Dating someone with a child isn’t the same as dating someone without one. They have different obligations and aren’t looking for a person to walk in and out of their life. 

They need stability. If you’re still in the phase of getting drunk every weekend and spending your Sundays in bed sobering up, then you’re not ready.

So, before you agree to a second date with this person, seriously think about what you want, because this isn’t only about you anymore. [Read: 50 relationship questions to test your compatibility]

2. Ask them out ASAP — single parents are busy!

A single parent doesn’t want a texting pen pal. They just don’t have a lot of extra time to just sit around and text someone all day long. 

So don’t waste their time – ask them out right away. That shows them that you’re interested in and respectful of their time. [Read: Texting in the early stages of dating – 24 rules and habits you MUST follow]

3. Don’t be needy

You might really like them – and that’s great. But you can’t be too demanding of their time because they have a lot of other commitments. 

So, you can’t be needy and smother them. This will turn them off and they might go find someone else who gives them the space she needs.

4. Ask about the kids

A single parent’s kids are the center of their world. And of course, they love them. So, you should ask them about their kids.

They probably love talking about them and it also shows that you care and will be good to them. [Read: 250 fun, deep relationship questions for couples to feel closer and more loved]

5. Wait for them to bring up introducing the kids

Introducing kids to a new dating partner is a tricky situation. Most people advise not introducing them too quickly because it could be too traumatic for them. 

So, even if you’re serious and committed to each other, wait for them to suggest meeting the kids. They want to do the right thing, so let them take the lead on this one.

6. Let them know you love kids — especially if you’re childless

A lot of single parents are self-conscious about having kids because they think that a lot of potential partners will think of them as a “burden” instead of a gift. 

So, if you’ve met their kids and you like them, tell them. They will be extremely happy and you’ll get to stick around longer in their life. [Read: 256 sweet, cute things to say to your girlfriend in a text & make her smile]

7. Don’t assume they’re broke just because they’re a single parent

There is a stereotype that almost all single parents are poor and struggling to feed their kids by themselves. This isn’t true. 

There are a lot of single parents who have great careers and can more than provide for their children. So, don’t make assumptions.

8. Don’t assume their kid needs a new parent

Most likely, the single parent’s kid’s second parent is in their life. Sure, there are times when that’s not true. But for the most part, they are still around. 

So, they already have another parent. You don’t need to step up and be that parental figure in their lives. [Read: Taking someone for granted – why we do it, bad effects, and 27 ways to stop it]

9. If you’re out and they’re paying for a sitter, you should get the check

You may not know this, but babysitters are really expensive these days. They can charge anywhere from $15-20 an hour, which can really add up if you have a long date. 

They could be spending upwards of $100 on a sitter to go out with you, so just be a considerate date and pick up the check. [Read: How to court a woman – the meaning and 23 gentlemanly ways to woo her]

10. Be patient on asking about visitation schedules

While asking about their kids’ visitation schedules might sound like you are expressing interest, they might perceive it as being nosy. Or, they might think you are trying to see how much free time they have. 

It’s safest to just let them offer up that information on their own instead of asking for it.

11. Don’t interfere in the parenting

You might have the urge to step in and help discipline their kids, especially if they are acting out of line. But resist the temptation to do this – especially with older kids. [Read: Helicopter mom – how to calmly deal with a mom who cares too much]

They have been parenting alone for a while, so they know how to do it. Even if you feel like you’re helping them, just stay out of it.

12. Don’t assume they’re free when the kids aren’t home

Single parents relish when their kids are with their other parent or at school. So, just because they don’t have their kids doesn’t mean they haven’t made any other plans.

They probably have friends and family that they want to hang out with too – not just you. So, always ask them what their plans are instead of assuming that they’re free to spend time with you. [Read: 25 signs you’re going from dating to relationship and how to do it right]

13. Know that they will have different preferences

Bachelors and bachelorettes can be swept off their feet with a Caribbean cruise, a date to a fancy restaurant, or an expensive gift. [Read: 25 really romantic ideas to make your lover melt]

But single parents tend to be a little more practical. Instead of a grand gesture, they’re more likely to be impressed by small but consistent things like an offer to take out the trash, a foot massage, or even a goodie bag of comfort food when they’re feeling low.

14. Know that when they invite you over, it is more work for them than when you invite them over

If you don’t have kids, then you don’t know how exhausting it is to raise them. Even if you do have kids, they might have theirs more than you have yours. [Read: 60 best free date ideas to have a romantic time without spending any money]

So, if they invite you over, that is just one more task that they have to do on their already full plate. Take it as a gesture of kindness and be sure to acknowledge their effort and thank them profusely.

15. Woo the relatives and close friends

The single parent’s loved ones will definitely be on the lookout for people who might feed on their vulnerability. 

Friends and family may have witnessed the deterioration of their previous relationship with the kid’s other parent, so they may try to prevent the single parent from a relationship that might end in heartbreak all over again.

16. Don’t be too eager to meet the kid

It’s like an unspoken rule among single parents that their children should not be exposed to the full lineup of men and women they’re dating. [Read: When does age difference start to matter in a relationship?]

Just imagine how hard it would be for a child to really get along with someone, and then in a blink of an eye, he or she is gone and replaced by someone new. That’s definitely going to spawn emotional issues later on.

17. Give them time to open up

Maybe the single parent is recently divorced and is still kind of sensitive about it. Sure, you might want to ask all about what went wrong, but they might not be ready to do that – especially early on.

So, give them time to open up about anything and everything. And that includes the children. [Read: 55 Personal questions to ask someone to get them to open up and talk to you]

You might think you’re being nice trying to know everything you can about the kids, but just let them tell you on their own timeline.

18. Offer some help

Being a single parent is exhausting – especially if you have a lot of kids. Working, getting the kids to school, making sure they are fed, and taking them to their activities takes a toll on a parent.

So, whenever you can, offer to help them out. Take one of the kids to baseball practice or make everyone dinner. Maybe even do the laundry. The single parent will definitely thank you for it! [Read: How to show empathy and learn to understand someone else’s feelings]

19. Don’t commit too quickly

Sure, you might be completely infatuated or even in love with this single parent. And you might want to be exclusive or even in a committed relationship early on. And that’s great! But wait for a while before you fully commit.

Not only do you not know exactly what you are getting into, but the single parent also doesn’t either. Plus, you don’t want to traumatize the children by going in and out of their lives if they get attached to you.

20. Don’t pressure them for commitment

Just as you shouldn’t jump into a commitment too soon, you also shouldn’t ask them or pressure them too early on either. [Read: Is he afraid of commitment? 30 signs he’s scared of a real relationship]

Remember, they have a lot on their plate as a single parent. Commitment might not be on their minds very often.

So, just go with the flow and see where the relationship goes. Everything will unfold naturally in time, and you both need to be 100% on the same page about everything.

21. Be flexible

If you don’t have kids yourself, you probably have a pretty easy life in terms of your schedule. After all, you’re the only one you need to worry about, and no one else. [Read: Powerful steps to break out of your comfort zone]

But a single parent has many other people to take care of. Their schedule isn’t as flexible as yours, so you need to be flexible and not try to have everything your way. You need to respect their life and schedule too.

22. Keep trying even if the child doesn’t like you

As mentioned earlier, you’re also vying for the approval of the children. This isn’t as easy as bringing them a few snacks or toys every once in a while. 

You have to talk to them and establish rapport. This is a serious emotional investment for you, the single parent, and the child. [Read: Guys you shouldn’t date if you want true love]

Try to brush up on what kids are into these days, whether it’s still Barney and Barbie or snazzy gadgets. But even if you’re fully equipped with a kiddie entertainment system, there’s still a chance that they may not like you. But keep trying.

23. Respect that it’s a big deal when they introduce you to their kids

You might not think it’s a big deal to meet their kids, but they most certainly do. So, you have to respect the fact that they aren’t taking this lightly.

When the time comes, be respectful to the kids and try to engage with them. Talk to them and try to get to know them. They will love you for it. [Read: Meaning of dating – how it works, types, 42 signs and ways to date someone right]

What single parents want in a partner

It takes more than being friendly to their kids to be a good date. So, if you are wondering what most single parents are looking for in a partner, here are some tips.

1. Be reliable

There is nothing worse than a partner who is flaky and unreliable. In fact, most people probably don’t like anyone like that. [Read: 31 subtle qualities of a good husband that make or break a happy marriage]

It’s just so much more comforting to know that you can count on someone and that they have your back. It makes everyone feel more sane and safe – especially single parents.

2. You’re a good listener and talker

All partners – especially single parents – appreciate someone who can be both a good listener and a good talker. They love good conversation and they also want to be able to go to you if they have a problem that needs solving.

That’s why they love partners who are good at listening to them talk. But they don’t want someone who just sits there like a lump and doesn’t say anything. You have to be interesting too! [Read: 19 ways to be a much better listener in a relationship and read their mind]

3. Have your life together

Do you think that a single parent would like to date someone who is underemployed *or completely unemployed*, has a house falling around them, or is in financial ruin? No, of course not.

Single parents have a lot of responsibility and they take care of their own lives. They want a partner who has their life together so they don’t have to take care of another child.

4. Low drama

No one likes drama – especially single parents. They get enough drama from all of their children, so they don’t need any extra in their life. [Read: How to recognize emotionally unstable people for less drama in life]

So, if you have a crazy ex, if you have anger issues or any other characteristic that would cause drama, they are most likely not interested in having that in their life.

Pros of dating a single dad

While some women might have some reservations about dating a single dad, there are some pros to consider. Here they are.

1. He wants a meaningful relationship

Men who have become fathers usually take relationships more seriously than those who don’t. [Read: Happily ever after – the psychological benefits of marriage and commitment]

If you date a single dad, you won’t be worried about whether or not he is a player or just wants to date casually. Usually, they want meaningful relationships just like you do. And that’s reassuring to know.

2. He likes his personal space

If you’re the type of woman who likes her personal space, then dating a single dad will be great for you. Single dads have a lot of obligations. 

Between work and his kids, there isn’t a lot of time left over. So, you can see him, but he definitely won’t smother you. [Read: 15 ways to give space in a relationship and feel closer than ever before]

3. He has a sensitive side

Even if he wasn’t particularly sensitive before he had children, becoming a father has likely made him that way. 

Anyone with kids knows that a parent’s love for a child is very powerful. So, his empathetic and sensitive side is stronger than a man who never had children,

4. He’ll be protective

Men naturally have a protective instinct. However, it gets even more powerful after he has kids. [Read: The alpha male – 65 traits of a real alpha man and true secrets to be one yourself]

Not only does he want to protect them from harm or danger, but he also wants to protect his woman. This is a very comforting feeling to have in a relationship. Who wouldn’t want someone to protect them? 

5. Dad material

Well, this one is obvious, right? He already has kids, so he is great dad material. When you meet a man who doesn’t have children, you never know what kind of father he will be. 

You’re just guessing. But with a single dad, you already know what kind of father he is. [Read: 25 signs of a good father and traits that will tell a man will be an amazing dad]

6. He’s not frivolous

Single men can be a bit more immature with their money. They like fast cars and spending money on things that are a bit more selfish. 

But single dads can’t do that. They need to save for college, put food on the table, and a roof over their children’s heads.

7. He’s mature and responsible

In order to be a good father, a man has to be mature and responsible. [Read: What age does a man emotionally mature? 19 signs of maturity in a guy]

And the good thing is, since he is responsible for his kids, this kind of maturity will also cross over into other areas of his life too, including the person he’s dating. That is certainly an advantage for his girlfriend.

Pros of dating a single mom

Some men might shy away from dating a single mom because of all the responsibility she has on her plate with her kids. But there are some pros to it too.

1. She’s more mature and secure

Single moms don’t really have much of a choice but to be mature. [Read: Signs of emotional maturity and traits that reveal a mature mind]

They are responsible for everything in their lives from working, paying the bills, grocery shopping, chores, and their kids. Having all of this to do makes her more mature and responsible, which also benefits her boyfriend.

2. She’s practical and doesn’t sweat the small stuff

A single mom is used to juggling so many things that the “small stuff” doesn’t bother her at all. She knows what is important in life and what isn’t. 

She’s also practical and won’t be as frivolous as a single woman who isn’t a mom. That’s because she needs to provide for her children. [Read: 70 true secrets to happiness to have a happy life and enjoy everything you do]

3. Her history has taught her what it takes to be a good partner

Most people learn what they want by first experiencing what they don’t want. Since the relationship didn’t work out with her ex, she knows why and what went wrong. 

So, she knows what to look for in the next relationship and what kind of man she wants now. That is helpful for both of you because she won’t waste your time.

4. Being a single mom takes away from the “baby fever” some women get

“Baby fever” is something that can annoy men. Women have a biological clock that ticks, and the older she gets, the more panicky she gets if she hasn’t had children yet. [Read: Older women dating younger men – 29 must-knows and secrets to make it work]

But a woman who already has kids might not even want any more. That lets the man off the hook and makes him more relaxed.

5. If she falls for you, it’s the real deal

Most single moms don’t want to introduce a man to their children unless she’s serious about him. And she doesn’t want to waste anyone’s time – including her own. 

So, if she falls for you, then you know it’s real. You don’t have to guess about her feelings because she is much more genuine with her feelings. [Read: What is true love? 58 signs & way to tell if what you’re feeling is real]

Cons of dating a single parent

While dating a single parent has a lot of advantages to it, there are some disadvantages as well. Here are the important ones.

1. You’re not the priority

When a person becomes a parent, their children become their top priority. It’s just how the world works *or at least it should*. 

So, that means that whoever they are dating is not going to be number one on the list. This could make the person feel insecure and not as valued as they could be. [Read: The right priority in your relationship – how to find and focus on it]

2. No spontaneity

If you’re the kind of person who wants to jet off to a different country at a moment’s notice, then dating a single parent will not be for you. Parents can’t do anything they want to do when they want to do it.

Parents have to plan because they have a lot of activities and responsibilities with their children. They can still do fun things, but they have to be planned well in advance so they can arrange child care if needed.

3. They’re grounded in reality

When you’re young and single with no kids, you can be a dreamer. It’s fun to think of all the fun and crazy things you can do when you get the chance. [Read: 30 things for couples to do at home with zero boredom involved]

But single parents are grounded in reality. They know what is and isn’t possible. So, if you’re a wild and crazy person, a single parent might not be your best choice. 

4. The “ex” factor

Most people have exes if they have had a relationship before. But when people don’t have kids together, the ex quietly leaves the person’s life and they may never hear from them again.

But when they share children, they are never going away. They are a permanent fixture in that person’s life and yours – for better or for worse. [Read: 37 signs your girlfriend’s not over her ex and misses him or wants him back]

5. Kids’ approval

When you date someone without children, all you really need is the approval of the person you’re dating *and maybe their friends and parents*. But when they have children, they will want them to like you too.

Getting children’s approval might be difficult too. They might be protective of their parents and think you are not “good enough” for them or that their other parent is better than you.

6. You won’t be sharing “firsts” 

They are a parent, which means they have gone through a lot of “firsts”. Most likely, they have also been married. So, for you, much of this will be completely new… But for them, they have been-there-done-that. 

That’s not to say that they won’t be excited if they were to marry you or have a child with you. It’s just that they have already had this milestone in their life. If completing “firsts” together is of great importance to you, reconsider what you want.

7. Their defenses will be up

Nothing brings out a person’s protective instincts more than the presence of an offspring. If you come barging into a single parent’s life, you better watch yourself because they won’t take crap from anyone.

What’s more, they’d be highly concerned about who they welcome into their life because these people may also affect the welfare of their kids.

8. Some single parents may not be looking to settle… yet

Think of it this way: a single parent has gone through the emotional trauma of losing a significant other through divorce, a mutual separation, or even death. 

And if that’s not enough, there’s a child that was also left behind by the end of the relationship. It may be hard for single parents to open up to a new relationship again for fear that things might end the same way. [Read: Signs you or your lover have the fear of commitment right now]

Signs you’re not ready to date a single parent

So, do you think you have what it takes to date a single parent? You might think you are, but here are some signs that you are not.

1. You’re jealous of the kids

If you’re the kind of person who likes a lot of time and attention, it might make you jealous of the amount of time a single parent needs to spend with their children. If this is true – or you’re jealous for any other reason – then don’t bother dating a single parent.

2. You’re looking for spontaneity

Some people are just naturally spontaneous people. And there’s nothing wrong with dropping everything at a moment’s notice to do something fun.

But when you’re dating a single parent, that isn’t an option. [Read: Emotional baggage – what it is, types, causes, 27 signs and steps to put it down]

3. You resent biting your tongue about parenting issues

Let’s face it – a lot of kids can be annoying and/or misbehave a lot. And if you get frustrated with kids and feel the need to jump in and control the situation, then you should avoid dating a single parent. It’s not your place to do that.

4. You want to control the timing

If you want to have a date on the weekend and you have a very specific time frame that you need and want to fill, that’s not going to happen with a single parent. Their lives are pretty scheduled and sometimes unexpected things come up too.

5. You don’t like kids—or these specific kids

This one should be obvious, but maybe it’s not for some people. If you’re not a kid person, then don’t date someone who has them. Even if you like kids, but the ones this person has annoy you, then it’s also best to avoid dating someone like that.

[Read: How to keep from moving too fast in a new relationship]

Remember, it’s not easy to date a single parent if you expect the relationship to be revolving around just the two of you. But if you understand all of these things, and you’re still willing to take the leap of faith, go right ahead.

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...